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Does Political Ambiguity Pay? Corporate Campaign contributions and the Rewards to Legislator Reputation

  • Randall S. Kroszner
  • Thomas Stratmann

Do politicians tend to follow a strategy of ambiguity in their policy positions or a strategy of reputational development to reduce uncertainty about where they stand? Ambiguity could allow a legislator to avoid alienating constituents and to play rival interests off against each other to maximize campaign contributions. Alternatively, reputational clarity could help to reduce uncertainty about a candidate and lead to high campaign contributions from favored interests. We outline a theory that considers conditions under which a politician would and would not prefer reputational development and policy-stance clarity in the context of repeat dealing with special interests. Our proxy for reputational development is the percent of repeat givers to a legislator. Using data on corporate political action committee contributions (PACs) to members of the U.S. House during the seven electoral cycles from 1983/84 to 1995/96, we find that legislators do not appear to follow a strategy of ambiguity and that high reputational development is rewarded with high PAC contributions.

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Paper provided by Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State in its series University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State with number 155.

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Date of creation: 1999
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Handle: RePEc:fth:chices:155
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Web page: http://research.chicagobooth.edu/economy/

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  1. Stratmann, Thomas, 1995. "Campaign Contributions and Congressional Voting: Does the Timing of Contributions Matter?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(1), pages 127-36, February.
  2. Randall S. Kroszner, 1999. "Is the Financial System Politically Independent? Perspectives on the Political Economy of Banking and Financial Regulation," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 151, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  3. Randall S. Kroszner & Thomas Stratmann, 1996. "Interest Group Competition and the Organization of Congress:Theory And Evidence from Financial Services Political Action Committees," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 126, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
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  12. Cukierman, Alex & Alesina, Alberto, 1990. "The Politics of Ambiguity," Scholarly Articles 4552530, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  13. Weingast, Barry R & Marshall, William J, 1988. "The Industrial Organization of Congress; or, Why Legislatures, Like Firms, Are Not Organized as Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(1), pages 132-63, February.
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  21. Randall S. Kroszner, 1999. "Is the Financial System Politically Independent? Perspectives on the Political Economy of Banking and Financial Regulation," CRSP working papers 492, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
  22. Randall S. Kroszner & Philip E. Strahan, 1999. "What Drives Deregulation? Economics And Politics Of The Relaxation Of Bank Branching Restrictions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1437-1467, November.
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